On this trip, I struggled to follow the typical script as a travel photographer. Suddenly I wasn’t quite as drawn to architecture at specific angles, and I started to widen my lens a bit more to the people who might enter into the frame. Perhaps it’s that I was too busy trying to be a resident here to look at it with a glamorous view, but Ireland certainly feels like home, so it wasn’t as easy this trip as in others to just generically collect images of landmarks.
Color and light and the elements are factors I was forced to take into consideration here. Photographers feel drawn to the deep greens of this island, but those of us who are newer to the game aren’t as well-equipped to create those shots. I also hate flash. Perhaps it’s best to say I don’t completely understand it. I think there’s a thing called Google I can use to look into it, though. So I just may.
To say this was a great trip would hardly scratch the surface. It’s emotional to vacation in a place that’s nearly 7,000 miles away from home knowing it’s the new home of one’s best friend. But I’d say I learned to love it here, and in many ways, Ireland is now my home, too. (Even if their non-scone pastries are sorely lacking in moisture.)
Travel to-do write-up to follow. For now, enjoy some shots that made the cut. And note that I’ve started to take an interest in photographing people texting. Thinking this might become a thing.
So I’m cleaning off my camera finally — enjoying some 1:1 time with my laptop as Crid works her way through some end of week items and we catch up on tunes from our younger days.
Perhaps it was the drunken haze or the immediate immersion into that crazy cleanse I did (yes, I’ll post about that sometime soon), but I somehow forgot to post the photos of my NYE party prep/decor.
Some notes: (1) White string lights are a crucial party element. (2) People don’t need fancy food — Jan and I learned over the course of many parties that whether we slaved on hot appetizers or simply sliced open a bag of chips that the result was the same. People just ate to eat. Also, one can always rely on their highly competent guests to provide the more sophisticated snacks (looking at you, Vera). (3) Wide open spaces = more guarantee of dancing. If your home has the means, make the space available. (4) There aren’t pics of actual people because the lighting was inappropriate and the people all look melted. I also hate flash. More than I should. (5) Yes, I used a black light. It certainly added some level of party that would not have already existed. (6) Considerable tradition = making a good “base” dinner for people to eat so they are good to go for the night. I prefer pasta because January 1st is usually when people start their diets, and starches tend not to be on the eat list. I used this recipe.
In sum: I am pretty proud of the decor. Also, Jan made an impressive ice mold for our Long Hello cocktail that I didn’t get any good shots of, so I had to tell you because he was really proud of it. Cake credit: Becca Lorentzen.
I’m a huge fan of taking note of firsts, and tonight I had a new first.
Tonight I reported a reckless taxi driver.
Typically when I am in a taxi and the driver makes me feel unsafe, I just take it out on Jan and complain. Or I say, “Sir, I’m really not in a rush. Could we drive a little slower?” Once, I threw $10 through the opening between the front and back seats and demanded to be let out as politely as possible, almost in the tone of someone who really had to pee: “Ummmmmmmmm okay! HERE! Please please can I get out here??!?”
In all of these instances, including the one where Jan and I were in a taxi after a late flight and our driver was CLEARLY FALLING ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL, I frothed over with anger, burst into a huge reaction once on solid ground, and then went about my evening (and again, complained to Jan incessantly).
But not today.
The truth is the claim that I filed doesn’t make me feel better. In fact, I have a lot of conflict about reporting an incident such as this because I doubt it’s easy being a taxi driver. No day is a perfect day, and frankly, I’m sure most days are quite shitty. I know that when I get in a taxi, it’s likely that I am the nicest person they’ll see all day. I give clear directions up front, don’t ever assume I know the best route, and I don’t ever make stupid requests about temperature or what’s on the radio. I’ve never gotten into a cab with urgency, and I’ve never asked a driver to go fast, speed up, or indicated that I was on a timeline. I do wonder if most people who get into a cab think they own it and that for their fare they reserve the right to be complete assholes because at least half of the drivers I engage with in a discussion explain that the job generally sucks and doesn’t provide the kind of freedom it used to.
And a lot of these men have been amazing to me. They’ve cut me some slack on a couple of missing singles or have waited for me to get inside of the building where I was dropped off. Or they’ve told me about their daughters that remind them of me — or about their newborn babies at home. Most people who’ve heard me tell a story about a cab driver got the good side. Because in general, I find the interactions to be pleasant and enlightening. I’ve gotten a lot of awesome advice and heard some wonderful stories worth a lot more than the fares. I always tip well above the typical suggested amount, and I always say thank you. To some, I wish a wonderful day, night, or time off if I’m their last fare. If I’m their first on a night shift, I wish them good luck and a barfless back seat.
So, on the whole, I am a gracious and forgiving patron. I forgive odors, obvious farting situations, yelling, cell phone chats, and the blaring of Christian propaganda on the radio. And I’m nice. Always nice.
But I think after years of seeing the best and the worst, tonight I reached my breaking point, although tonight’s offender wasn’t much worse than the worst. He was just wrong. Maybe he had a terrible day. But unlike a server in a restaurant whose terrible day may simply result in a bit of attitude or a lack of glasses filled with water, a taxi driver has, for a short period, the lives of his passengers in his hands. I’ve never complained about a server. And I never thought I’d complain about a driver. But sometimes, it’s impossible to overlook the bad.
Tonight, my taxi driver sped through two red lights that were RED, not yellow-going-on-red. He saw pedestrians either inching into a crosswalk or trying to hail cabs near the curb and sped up rather than slowed down, taking the “Okay, well if you don’t move, I’m going to hit you” approach WAY too far. He truly almost hit both of these people and was not ashamed of it. The straw that really broke the camel’s back was the MILLIMETERS that were between his front bumper and a cyclist in the far right lane, tidily keeping to their spot, but inconveniencing him from being able to drive 50 MPH on Ontario. Too many cyclists are hit by careless, mean and dangerous drivers. I jumped out of my skin witness to this horrifying display of recklessness. Particularly against those who are trying to share the road safely.
In each instance, I gasped a certainly audible, “Oh my gosh!” or “Oh no!” There’s no way the driver didn’t hear me. So, I wrote down his information as calmly as possible on the last block of our trip, and I filed a complaint with the City of Chicago shortly thereafter.
I am afraid this driver will feel betrayed by the customers he serves day in and day out in a mostly thankless job. I’m sure he is frequently undertipped or not tipped at all. If he has mouths to feed, I feel even worse about this report because endangering his job is not my goal. I hope he gets a warning that his driving is dangerous. So dangerous, in fact, that after almost 10 years of riding in cabs, it was his appalling performance that finally inspired me to take action.
I’m in no worse a mood today than usual. In fact, I had an awesome day. I have no bitterness or anger to take out on anybody. I don’t think I’m special or that I deserve much. But I do deserve safety. And so do the other people on the road. I hope that this first is the last of my taxi driver complaints. And that this complaint does some good in the face of some bad, bad road etiquette.
Last night a friend asked me what I hoped for most this year. It was difficult to answer that question mostly because I hold so much hope in my heart every day. It can be overwhelming, honestly. But it’s great to hope. This time of year, though, there’s a lot of focus on restraint, restriction, and limiting ourselves in order to meet goals. I understand that in life and in resolutions, less is the proverbial more, but maybe the best way to mentally and emotionally want to accomplish goal is to say what we will DO instead of what we won’t.
So here are a few of mine. Take them or leave them, or go back to sleeping because it’s still quite early for those of us who partied last night/early this morning:
- Sweat daily. Even if not a full workout, I would like to get my heart pumped up so it knows I’m young and active. I need to switch the focus from putting in time on the clock and burning x-number of calories to simple choices that improve my well-being. Like walking to the farther grocery store to get milk instead of the closest, most convenient grocery stores. Or taking a 15 minute break from working to dance to the indie pop I’m listening to anyways. There are times I wonder if my body thinks I’m 70. Days can go by where I’m so lazy my body probably doesn’t even know I’m awake. So it’s time to remind it that we haven’t broken 30 yet.
- Write daily. A friend was saying he didn’t think he was capable of writing a fiction novel recently. A public writer like myself, I think he also suffers from the need for approval and feedback, so it’s difficult to sit down and write without the regular reward. I said that I think talented and successful fiction writers are people who HAVE to write. People who have a compulsion to write their thoughts and their ideas in such a way that it overflows into their social lives and they have to actually make the time for the words to escape. They write for themselves because writing is a part of them – an outlet. I think I write as an outlet, but this year, I’d like to write real stories. Even if they aren’t for this blog. Perhaps this will be the exercise that catapults me into a more accomplished storyteller.
- Eat leafy greens daily. I think it should be easy to add them to a breakfast sandwich, on the side with any meal or before any meal, or to just BE a meal. Research supports this, and rather than overwhelm my diet, I’ll just start with something relatively simple.
- Floss daily. So, I got an amazing water flosser for Christmas this year. It makes the job so easy, and it feels AMAZING. So far, so good, but I have to keep it up. My dentist will be sad, but my heart and body will love me more for keeping things well irrigated.
- Learn a new word every day. Write it down with the definition. There can be no downside to this. The fun is in reading news, literature, articles, and building new knowledge that can be used in writing and is the result of knowing more about the world and the words we use to describe it.
What are you up to this year? What are you going to DO?
I have a strong reaction to people walking away from me. Whenever I drop someone I love off at a train station or airport, watching their life detach from mine as they disappear from view drains my happiness. I want to be the kind of person who can move from one moment to the next with my eye on the future, but sometimes the moment of departure revives my childhood memories of loss and fear, and without notice, I am pulling at the brown fast food napkins packed in the glove compartment through blurred vision to stop the salty tears from slipping down into the neck of my sweatshirt.
I try to make every minute with the people I love count. But that’s difficult to do because I love a lot of people. Maybe that’s because I’ve always been so willing to give myself freely that others return enthusiastically enough that our bonds are eternal. Maybe it’s because I’m fragile and need love everywhere, like an air bag to constantly protect me from life’s crashes and accidents. Maybe I read too many lifestyle blogs. Either way, I try desperately to keep this love I need in my life as much as possible.
Before taking him to the train this morning, I presented Domenic with half a dozen donuts — as I always do when he leaves Chicago — as an offering of permanent residence.
“You know, you don’t have to go.”
I laughed, swept my knuckles over his overly-pomaded hair and brushed off the serious moment. Because I meant it. I love this person so much that I want him, despite smelling at all times like some combination of sweat, Sour Patch Kids, and youthful cologne, to live here in this home. I often practice a balance of understanding sister and smothery mom, and over the years because I try to listen, I’ve given more consideration to this role of sister. It makes him happier although it’s just a distraction from my typical urges towards him — a man growing up in the world who was once the baby I’d pretend was mine. So I bargain lightly, recommend evenly, and work diligently to maintain the part of myself that can communicate with him on his level.
This visit was different than all of the others. The distance between us is narrowing, and I can feel its magic the way I know what time it is before I open my eyes in the morning. I was nine when Domenic was born, and until today, I was always nine years older than him. Now, we’re becoming best friends. Although I’m still a bit too protective. He rolls his eyes as I attempt to display authority and concern. Then he smiles because the size of my worry is more about love than a fear that he lacks the ability to represent himself well. I like who he is. He’s a smart kid. He picks up games in an instant and can beat Jan at them. After driving to a place once, he can get himself back there again without a hint or clue. His inner compass is freaky. But I don’t think this is a natural occurrence in people. I believe Domenic cares about where he is, who he is, and what his relationship with his environment will be. He really looks around and takes it all in.
I’ve told Jan and other friends that I’m afraid I will bring children into this world who are as careful and afraid as I was. I don’t remember being coddled into that fear, but somehow out of the mix of my upbringing emerged a person whose two feet are always cemented to the ground. There was a time when I projected this onto Domenic and tried to fit him into a mold that was foolproof. But now I just look at him with admiration and respect. We are alike in many of the best ways, but the best ways he is different show a character that is strong and stubborn yet completely cool and easygoing. He has a fearlessness that welcomes and invents adventure. To him, nothing is the end of the world. Sure, he is aware of consequence, but consequence doesn’t guide his every action. It’s relaxing and affirming to see the parts of me that never developed thriving inside of him.
But it’s also scary. Unconditional love is horrifying. It requires that you let a part of you go without a guarantee that it will be safe where it’s going — or that it will return. As I watched Domenic walk away and roll his suitcase through the sliding glass doors of Union Station this morning, I bursted into a laughter that shook the tears out of my eyes and filled the dry cracks of my person with profound meaning. In these moments I realize I love so much that it really does hurt, but that pain does, in turn, result in a kind of transcendental happiness. It’s worth it to try really hard, and it’s worth it to let go. Because even if that love doesn’t come back, all isn’t lost. Its rippling effect goes on forever.